NYLON/ Victoria Warnken, Getty Images, Immaculate Photos Courtesy of NEON


Sydney Sweeney On ‘Immaculate’ & The Horror Films That Made It

The actress talks to NYLON about producing, adrenaline highs, and keeping her characters at arm’s length.

In Immaculate, Sydney Sweeney plays a nun on the run through the catacombs of an Italian convent, pregnant with the immaculate conception.

If that image is tantalizing, you should book your ticket now. The scene is just one of many in the film that harnesses drama from the aesthetics of Catholicism to a terrifying — and wholly entertaining — degree.

Directed by Michael Mohan and produced by Sweeney, Immaculate follows Sister Cecilia (Sweeney) who leaves Wisconsin to join an ornate, ancient convent in a remote area of Italy, where she becomes pregnant. Cecilia has never had sex, she assures the priests, which means the pregnancy can only mean one thing: an immaculate conception. Though Cecilia is praised like the Virgin Mary herself, things soon start to get weird.

Catholicism’s dramatic iconography has been trending in pop culture over recent years, whether in the Mob Wife aesthetic, which isn’t complete without a giant crucifix, or the pithy catchphrases of brands like Praying, which makes a Father, Son, Holy Spirit bikini. Immaculate takes the recent Catholic obsession and combines it with cues from horror classics like Rosemary’s Baby and Suspiria for a delightfully campy and actually terrifying film in which Sweeney’s performance never falters.

Below, Sweeney talks to NYLON about first auditioning for the film a decade ago, what she loves about producing, and her favorite horror films.

I really loved your outfit that you wore to the premiere. It was so beautiful.

Oh my God, thank you so much!

What is your relationship to religion and Catholicism in particular? Did you have any religious experience that you incorporated into your performance??

Well, I grew up in a small town. It's a very Catholic town and I went to Sunday school when I was young, but that was about it. I never really draw from my real life for my characters. I like to create these character books that are from their first day of being born. It's the first page of the script, and it allows me to be able to separate myself completely where I create their own memories and the relationships and the timeline of their life so that when I'm in this character, I'm just drawing on her own relationship with religion or her parents or friends, and that way I'm not crowding my mind with anything else.

Does stuff ever creep in accidentally from your life?


Catholic-core has been a trend in fashion for the past couple of years, not necessarily for its religious aspects, but for its aesthetic drama. Are you on board with the look?

I think that fashion is a really cool way of being able to express yourself through so many different mediums and personalities, so I think it is fun being able to just draw from different parts of life.

How did the costumes in the film feed into your performance?

The costume designer [Francesca Maria Brunori] was absolutely incredible. She puts together such a cool sketchbook of different ideas for different characters, and I always was really obsessed with what she called her Madonna. That was the main church imagery of when the entire convent reveals that she has the immaculate conception. I just always thought it was just such a beautiful, stunning image with the roses and the thorns on the crown and the veil, very Mother Mary art. It was beautiful.

What has your journey been with making this film, as both an actress and producer?

I auditioned for it 10 years ago and it was an all-girl boarding school set in Ireland. When I finally got my hands on it and made adjustments to the script, we were trying to brainstorm what is the best buy-in to her story. She is mid-20s; who is going to believe that she could be pregnant with an immaculate conception? Mike [Mohan] was like, “no one.” It truly just suited the outcome and the different events that happened in her life. It wasn't that we were set out to make it a religious movie. It just better served her storyline and to help people buy into believing that this could actually be happening to her.

Religion feels like a good container for a story about an immaculate conception.


There are some really fun horror movie references in this. Suspiria, Rosemary's Baby, as well as The Godfather. Do you have any personal favorites that you fought to get in? What horror films do you like?

Rosemary's Baby was definitely one of our biggest inspirations. It was a part of our pitch deck the entire time. I love The Shining, I love Nightmare on Elm Street. I love Jordan Peele’s Us, Halloween, The Thing. An array of different types of horror.

You scream so much in this movie. It was impressive, even just from a physical standpoint. I would love to hear about the endurance of that.

Thank you. I was just on such an adrenaline high the entire time. I was just having such a great time. I loved being there. There was so much happening. Mike would be directing first unit and I'd be running over and directing second unit. There was so much going on, and so I don't think I had time to feel worn down or let my voice go. I was always on the go.

Since this has been a decade-long movie for you, now that you’re finally getting to talk about it, is there anything about the film that you haven't been asked about that you've found interesting?

I love talking about the whole entire process of putting the whole film together. It was the first time before Anyone But You that I was able to truly build a project from the ground up. Everyone always asks me about the character and the acting and what did she relate to instead of actually the whole process of making the film, which was really a lot of hard work and fascinating, and that part was longer than the actual shoot, which it's really fun.

What did you learn about producing on this film?

I love being able to problem solve, and there's a lot of problem solving in producing. I love being able to build an entire world instead of just a character, and it's juggling multiple things all at the same time.

What other kinds of films do you want to produce or stories do you want to tell?

All different types. That's what's so cool about this industry, about acting and making art is that you can do anything. I want to try everything because that's what is so fun about it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.